Rhys Chatham, Joshua Abrams’s Natural Information Society | Constellation | Experimental | Chicago Reader
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click to enlarge Rhys Chatham

Rhys Chatham

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Rhys Chatham, Joshua Abrams’s Natural Information Society 

When: Fri., May 20, 8:30 p.m. 2016
Price: $17, $15 in advance
On his forthcoming album Pythagorean Dream (Foom) veteran experimentalist and composer Rhys Chatham goes it alone, ditching the guitar armies that put him on the map during the punk era—though not allowing his interest in unconventional harmony to wane. Chatham famously studied under La Monte Young in the early 70s and was steeped in the lessons of the just-intonation tuning system, but as the title of this new record suggests, he employs Pythagorean tuning here. Essentially the first tuning system to be widely embraced in Western music, it’s based on perfect fifths tuned to the frequency ratio of 3:2. Chatham also salutes Terry Riley, a minimalist who pioneered using tape machines, via the use of less cumbersome digital delay pedals. The stripped-down results share the hypnotizing quality of the rest of Chatham’s work, as scrappy fingerstyle picking bathes the listener in a droning swarm of sound loaded with overtones. For the second part of the composition Chatham switches to flute—his primary instrument when he studied music—creating bass, alto, and C passages that suggest a surface serenity with their fluttery patterns and long tones but have as much harmonic intrigue as the guitar section. The CD version of the album contains a bonus track with Chatham playing the same piece on trumpet. For his first local performance in six years he’ll play solo.
— Peter Margasak
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